Where’s the data? Sturgeon accused of not being transparent over COVID-19 test and trace

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Professor Linda Bauld said the information was the “missing piece in the jigsaw” in the Scottish Government’s data published about the coronavirus pandemic. The Professor of public health at Edinburgh University urged Nicola Sturgeon to publish data about the proportion of contacts reached by the trace and protect system to show if it is working.

She said the country will be living with the test and protect “for many months” and the extra data is needed to show whether the system is working as it should be.

Professor Bauld, added: “All we have at the moment is the number of people who have been tested and then the number of people who are contacts.

“We don’t know the proportion that have been followed up, how long it is taking to do that, though we’ve heard the First Minister give some examples, and then we don’t know what happens to those people who are followed up and we need to be able to see all those data to be confident that the system is working as it should be.”

NHS tracers identify close contacts of those with COVID-19 and ask them to self-isolate at home for 14 days and is seen as a vital element of controlling potential outbreaks.

It has been vital to help identify further cases including a recent large cluster in Aberdeen.

Since July 26, 198 cases are believed to be associated with the “large and complex outbreak” linked to Aberdeen pubs, which led to a local lockdown.

A total of 1,032 contacts have been traced, and the First Minister warned new cases and contacts are expected in the coming days.

Professor Bauld said Scotland has done “extremely well” on other areas of the data but outlined the information she would also like to see published.

She added: “What I would like to see, these are the data we need, we need the proportion of contacts reported by index case, so that’s the person who tested positive, that have been successfully reached, so that’s that percentage.

“Also the time taken to reach the individual, that’s crucial because to shut down the chains of transmission it needs to be rapid and I’d also like to see whether follow-up occurs for those who are asked to isolate.

“Finally, and this is probably optional but would be interesting, whether cases have been symptomatic or not because there’s routine testing in care homes and in the NHS and of course those people will have contacts as well so let’s aim to be even better than the countries that are currently reporting that data and give all of that data, not just to researchers like me but to the public as well.”

Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Conservative health spokesperson, told Express.co.uk it was not “acceptable that Scotland’s public health experts have to practically beg the SNP to provide the necessary data.”

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He added: “Tackling this virus requires an honest, open approach. We will only stop the spread of Covid with every expert at Scotland’s disposal working together using all the available information.

“We can’t have a situation where public health experts are forced to cobble together what they can from limited data.

“This is more evidence of a troubling pattern of behaviour from the SNP on transparency.”

When asked about the issue during the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I agree with Linda Bauld.

“We are in the process of developing the data that we will publish around Test and Protect and enhance that as soon as we can.

“But around the Aberdeen cluster, we are reaching a very high proportion of contacts that have been identified.”

The Scottish Government said it expects to publish figures on the percentage of positive cases followed up by the end of August but will release the number of contacts traced in clusters in the meantime.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “The Scottish Government is committed to setting out as much data as possible about the COVID-19 pandemic to help inform and improve our response.

“We work closely with National Records of Scotland and Public Health Scotland to ensure the figures we publish are robust, and will publish significantly more information about the contact tracing process, including the percentage of positive cases followed up, time taken to reach individuals who had tested positive and time taken to reach their contacts.

“We expect to publish this data by the end of August. 

“This will be drawn from the case management system used by all territorial health boards and the National Contact Tracing Centre, and Public Health Scotland is continuing to work with CMS users across the territorial boards to improve data quality ahead of publication.”

So far, a total of 19,238 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland with the death toll at 2,491.

There are 253 people in hospital with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, a decrease of five in the last 24 hours. 

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